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The phenomenology of suffering in medicine and bioethics
Södertörn University, School of Culture and Education, Centre for Studies in Practical Knowledge.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8973-8591
2014 (English)In: Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, ISSN 1386-7415, E-ISSN 1573-1200, Vol. 35, no 6, 407-420 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article develops a phenomenology of suffering with an emphasis on matters relevant to medical practice and bioethics. An attempt is made to explain how suffering can involve many different things-bodily pains, inability to carry out everyday actions, and failure to realize core life values-and yet be a distinct phenomenon. Proceeding from and expanding upon analyses found in the works of Eric Cassell and Elaine Scarry, suffering is found to be a potentially alienating mood overcoming the person and engaging her in a struggle to remain at home in the face of loss of meaning and purpose in life. Suffering involves painful experiences at different levels that are connected through the suffering-mood but are nevertheless distinguishable by being primarily about (1) my embodiment, (2) my engagements in the world together with others, and (3) my core life values. Suffering is in essence a feeling (a mood), but as such, it has implications for and involves the person's entire life: how she acts in the world, communicates with others, and understands and looks upon her priorities and goals in life. Suffering-moods are typically intense and painful in nature, but they may also display a rather subconscious quality in presenting things in the world and my life as a whole in an alienating way. In such situations, we are not focused directly upon the suffering-mood-as in the cases of pain and other bodily ailments-but rather, upon the things that the mood presents to us: not only our bodies, but also other things in the world that prevent us from having a good life and being the persons we want to be. Such suffering may in many cases be transformed or at least mitigated by a person's identifying and changing her core life values and in such a manner reinterpreting her life story to become an easier and more rewarding one to live under the present circumstances.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 35, no 6, 407-420 p.
Keyword [en]
Eric Cassell, Elaine Scarry, Mood, Lived body, Narrative, Transformation
National Category
Philosophy Psychiatry
Research subject
Critical and Cultural Theory; Baltic and East European studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-25260DOI: 10.1007/s11017-014-9315-3ISI: 000345403100001PubMedID: 25398688ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84912525417Local ID: 726/3.1.1/2014OAI: diva2:769567
The Phenomenology of Suffering in Medicine: Explorations in the Baltic Sea Region
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, 726/3.1.1/2014
Available from: 2014-12-08 Created: 2014-11-20 Last updated: 2016-10-10Bibliographically approved

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Svenaeus, Fredrik
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